Advice for First-Year Teachers: 5 Tips to Prepare for Success

teacher in front of the students

Congratulations! After years of dedicated training and study, you are now a certified teacher and ready to enter the classroom. While this is an exciting juncture in your career, you may also be feeling nervous or anxious about starting a new job – and that’s okay!

If you are a first-year teacher, here are some helpful tips for new teachers that can help you prepare, mitigate any fears, and ensure a successful start to your new career!

Tip #1: Use Your Resources

The best part of being a new teacher is knowing that others came before you – you are not starting from ground zero. For decades, teachers have been experimenting with different methods of designing curricula, utilizing technology, classroom management, and more. Educators are always seeking innovative ways to support their students and continually expanding their teacher toolkits. As a new teacher, nobody expects you to do it all on your own, so do not be afraid to tap into teacher resources available to you.

Connect with other teachers at your school and in your district to learn how they design their classes, set classroom expectations, or deal with unexpected situations. Make friends with the guidance counselors at the school and discuss common issues students may face both at home and at school. Seek advice on how to best deal with these challenges.

A great resource for new teachers is finding an experienced teacher who can act in the capacity of a mentor. Veteran teachers often want to share their knowledge with new teachers and are eager to pass on what they know. With years of experience under their belt, they also have the inside scoop on what is really going on and where to find resources or help at the school that may be difficult for a new teacher just coming into a new role to understand.

Your school community wants teachers and students alike to thrive, so whether it’s content you’re teaching or how to handle students, ask questions and gather teaching tips from others. If you are wondering how to get started in teaching, your network of teachers, counselors, and coaches is the resource to turn to!

Tip #2: Keep It Simple

While you may have a lot of fresh, new ideas that you want to implement in your classroom, simply entering the classroom as a new teacher and adapting to a new school can be a lot. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to tackle a million things all at the same time. When it comes to the curriculum, the best advice for first-year teachers is to work with the existing material and slowly personalize it over time.

Choose one aspect of the current curriculum that you want to prioritize and focus on that. By making gradual changes to teaching plans, you will be better able to analyze how effective your new approach is. Make sure to take time each day to reflect on the different aspects of the lesson and consider what went well and where there is still room for improvement.

An important tip for teachers is to not be afraid to call it quits. If your new method or idea is not working for a particular class, it’s okay to pull the plug on that and try something else. Different classes and students have different needs – what works for one class may not work for another and this is not reflective of you or your ideas.

Tip #3: Be Transparent

Teaching requires strong interpersonal skills; there is far more to the career than simply standing in front of a group of students and lecturing or marking stacks of assignments. As a teacher, you will need to interact with parents and school administrators as well. The best advice for a beginner teacher to effectively maintain these relationships is to be open and honest about what is going on in your classroom.

Be prepared and willing to explain your thought process on why something is a part of your curriculum or how and why you choose to evaluate different classroom activities in your grading. Being available for and transparent in these conversations helps to set classroom expectations and goes a long way in establishing strong relationships with students, their parents, and school administrators.

Tip #4: Set Class Expectations

The first day of school is an important one as it sets the tone for the rest of the school year. This is when teachers must set their expectations for students’ behavior and work for the rest of the year. These expectations should be simple, straightforward, and demonstrate a clear path to success for students. A clear code of conduct is one of the best teacher tools you can have and is a powerful way to ensure your students flourish through the year.

A tip for beginner teachers – get the students to formulate their own set of class expectations. This doesn’t mean that the kids get to decide everything! Provide them with a general outline or some ideas to kickstart their discussions but let them customize their own set of classroom expectations for themselves. For example, they may set an expectation that everyone can go to the bathroom when needed, but they would also then have to ensure they have guidelines in place to prevent disruptions to the class.

Another way to set expectations as a classroom community is to have students share their ideas and then have them vote on them. As a new teacher, be mindful that students can sometimes be much harsher than a teacher may be, so it is essential to guide them in this task. Students are more likely to adhere to these expectations because they have created them themselves and enforcing them is likely to be much easier with their buy-in.

With classroom expectations, the key advice for first-year teachers is to be consistent. Once the expectations are set, they should be upheld and enforced consistently. Of course, there is some wiggle room here to change things that are not working. Be sure to address the problem first with your students and inform them of how and why the expectation is changing. This ensures everyone stays on the same page.

Tip #5: Learn to Say No

As a first-year teacher, you likely want to make a good impression on your schools and colleagues. However, be careful not to spread yourself too thin. Often, there are a plethora of volunteer requests at schools, such as chaperoning a school dance or being an advisor for a club. While these opportunities are a great way to feel connected to your new community, you do not need to (and should not!) take them all on. Remember that every time you say yes to something, it means you have to say no to something else. Ultimately, it is a choice you make about how you spend your time.

Pick the things that are important to you or resonate with you the most. If you say yes to coaching the debate team, it may mean you can’t dedicate time to something you really are interested in, like organizing an art outreach program or mentoring a school sports team. When you commit only to activities you are most passionate about, the students will pick up on it and reflect your energy. That’s why assessing your capacity and bandwidth to ensure that you are able to take on any new activity is critical. It is always okay to say no if you have too much on your plate – professionally or personally.

A vital tip for new teachers is to reflect on and establish boundaries early on to avoid burnout. You must, of course, do your fair share and participate in events, but be practical about your limitations. Learning to feel comfortable saying no to requests you know you cannot reasonably fulfill allows you to better be present and serve your students while avoiding burnout. Ultimately, that is your most important role.

It may also be helpful to be aware of the importance of self-care and learn how to protect your mental health through courses like #1 Premiere Continuing Education’s free one-hour course on Self Care and Mental Health for Professionals.

Bonus Tip: Continue Your Professional Development

Beginning your new career as a teacher can be exciting yet challenging. Start the year off on the right foot by taking these tips for new teachers to heart and putting them into practice. As you enter the workforce and establish yourself as a teacher, remember that professional development is a critical part of growing as a teacher. Different states often have different requirements so it is always a good idea to check on professional development workshops teachers in your state are required to complete.

If you are becoming a new teacher in the state of New York, #1 Premiere Continuing Education has you covered. Find our full list of workshops required by NYSED here.

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